Last Updated on February 10, 2022 by Jeremy
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Tako in downtown Pittsburgh is a modern taco restaurant with elevated and unique takes on this classic food. We hadn't been to tako (Japanese for octopus) in several years, so we thought we were long overdue for another meal at this hot spot.
tako Focuses on Mexican Inspired Cuisine
The food menu here is Mexican-inspired but also has influences from other cuisines like Korean and Japanese. Appetizers lean more towards what you'd expect at a Mexican restaurant and include dips like chorizo fundido, salsa, and guacamole, as well as nachos and taquitos.
We started with the house guacamole which was seductively smooth, perfectly salted, and dotted with razor thin slices of spicy jalapenos along with onion, lime, and cilantro. It was served with a huge mountain of freshly fried chips which we nibbled throughout the meal. The guac was great, we just wish that for $14 there was more of it.
Besides appetizers and tacos, the menu includes a selection of small plates that can function as appetizers or side dishes, or possibly entrees if you order several.
We tried the okonomiyaki- a Japanese cabbage pancake- and it did not disappoint. It wasn't quite like the okonomiyaki we're used to but it was delicious nonetheless. It didn't have a crispy, griddled surface or a sweet barbecue sauce on top. Instead it was creamy the whole way through and was topped with a sesame mayo and red dragon sauce, giving an incredible savory umami flavor. Pro tip: use your leftover chips to eat the okonomiyaki like a dip.
You Must Go for the Tacos
Tacos come two per order and protein options run the gamut from carnitas to chorizo to pastor, each with their own complementary toppings and sauces. One of the most hyped up tacos is the octopus, where the meat is cooked sous vide and finished on the grill. We really loved the octopus taco on our previous visit a few years ago, but we had to venture out and try a few new things on this visit.
For one order we chose a special which was pork belly cooked in coconut milk with apricot, cilantro, and jalapeno. Some of the pork belly was a bit chewy, and we didn't really get any of the coconut milk or apricot flavors coming through.
Our other taco order was chorizo which was topped with roasted poblano, caramelized onions, cotija cheese, fried egg, and cilantro. These were extremely rich and savory tacos – probably a bit too heavy for the really hot summer weather we were having.
The flavors were good but not what we expected from the menu description; we didn't taste the poblano or caramelized onion. The taco would have really benefited from the spiciness and sweetness to balance the richness.
Round the Meal Out with Drinks from the Tequila Bar
The bar here is primarily a tequila bar with hundreds of different types available. While there is a small beer and wine selection, cocktails are definitely the thing to order. The margarita menu features different flavors like spicy cucumber, coconut, or grapefruit, while the rest of the cocktails tend towards tropical and feature mostly rum and tequila.
We tried the Rebel Blood, a mezcal cocktail with blood orange, lime, and agave which was ok but seemed a bit watered down. Our other cocktail choices fared much better – the spicy and fruity Hellhound (mezcal, grapefruit liqueur, serrano, and lime) and The Last Passion (tequila, Luxardo, green chartreuse, passion fruit, and lime). The Last Passion was by far our favorite cocktail as it was a beautiful mix of herbal, fruit, and acidic notes working in tandem.
While we liked the food here, we have to say it fell flat compared to the first meal we had here several years ago that left us talking about it for days. The price point is also a bit disconcerting – especially for tacos that range from $13 to $22 for just two. However, one thing that hasn't changed is the value and quality of the cocktails. They're a solid bet and are reasonably priced given the downtown location.
Finally, reservations are notoriously hard to get here (along with all the other restaurants in the Richard DeShantz restaurant group) on weekends. Weekdays are a little bit easier but still require a reservation- we were able to snag a peak weeknight spot about a week in advance. However, for those who want to enjoy this one in a more fast-casual experience, you may want to consider hitting the restaurant's second location, tako Torta, in Bakery Square!
täkō is located at 214 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. Advanced reservations are essential, especially on weekends.
For more downtown Pittsburgh restaurants, check out Butcher and the Rye, Condado Tacos, Bea Taco Town, or Pizzaiolo Primo! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!